Agra, Antics & Airborne
Sunday 21st Nov

We were up pretty early to see the sites of Agra. We were picked up by our taxi at 0600 and headed straight to the Taj Mahal. In short, this is the most beautiful building I have ever had the privilege of visiting. It stands as a symbol of eternal love, built over 3 hundred years ago by Emperor Shah Jahal in memory of his third (and favourite) wife Mumtaz Mahal. If you don’t know the story, it’s well worth a read. From the Taj Mahal to Agra Fort where we spent an hour or so taking it in. Another marvel, well worth visiting. I could have done without the hoards of people outside Agra fort trying to sell me just about everything from tour guides to marble elephants and cigarettes, but hey, I never felt threatened so no worries.
The morning passed so quickly, it seemed like the next minute we were blazing back towards Delhi in another taxi.
Now I’m not sure if it was just me, (in fact, I know it wasn’t, Stu will testify to all of this) but this next journey, covering Agra to New Delhi and onward to Mumbai seemed to throw up some of the most unexpected sites of the trip so far.
It took us about 4 hours to get back to Delhi, but all I’ll say is that it was far from boring.
On the taxi journey road back we saw;
A kid asking to clean the taxi windscreen (not that out of the ordinary….)
A stop at a restaurant called Maharajah.. the biggest tourist trap I think I saw the whole two weeks…and ironically the worst food.
A monkey with a dress on and full make up.
The loudest Indian tunes ever in the taxi. Man, the driver wasn’t keen on it being quiet.
A sleeping baby. Not unusual until you factor in she was being held in her mothers arms and sitting on the back of a speeding motorbike.
The Calor gas man. This crazy fool walked straight into the oncoming traffic on the main road, with a massive Calor Gas canister on his head. Nobody slowed down to avoid him and indeed, our taxi missed him by about a foot.
Palwal market..fascinating, looked like a throng of activity, as we passed.
More main road antics. A guy on a push bike, holding on to the back of a tractor for a free ride.
A big wagon with ‘good cock’ written on it.
A mad Faridabad bus that was clearly straight from the set of Speed. So keen was it to maintain its speed it was up the backside of taxi, worryingly for some time.
To cap it off, our cheeky taxi driver asked us to pay the road toll after us shelling out for a pre-paid taxi. Em, we didn’t pay. Think that about covers it.
We arrived in New Delhi in plenty time for our flight but alas a 2 hour delay was called.
This meant a fair old wait in the airport.
After a Costa coffee and getting checked in we decided on something to eat.
A few beers and some Chilli paneer was had before meeting and chatting to the son of an Indian diplomat about Italian football…and Hearts. He seemed genuinely interested, but then Stu was sitting closer to him than me.
Once we eventually got on the flight, more fun ensued.
An argument broke out on board about seat allocation, which came pretty close to blows. This delayed take off further.
Then once airborne, a passenger became (by the sounds of things) critically ill. There was a call for a doctor, and luckily one was on board.
Eventually we landed in Mumbai, tired and ready for bed.
At this point spare a thought for Yusuf, our driver, who had been waiting for us for over three hours.
We headed for the hotel but still managed one last sight.
Two young kids, standing on top of a moving dust bin lorry, sometime after 0100.
Back to the hotel and into bed. It was 0200.
Wow. What a weekend.

Monday 22nd Nov
Not much to report on today. I slept in the car en route to work.
A very tiring weekend meant Stu and I were both pretty exhausted.
It meant calling on the assistance of Red Bull to ensure we got through all the work.
I gave the Offshore guys my Sky presentation and then showed them some of my pictures from the weekend.
We left the office pretty sharp and were back at the hotel by 1815.
Took the opportunity to get a well earned early night, hitting the hay around 2200 after watching some telly.

Tuesday 23rd Nov
Aah, that’s better.
After a monster 9 hours sleep I’m up fed and watered and down stairs in the lobby waiting to be picked up at 0730.
Stu and I have been wondering why, for the last week, our driver is never on time but when we return home from the office we have messages to say he has arrived 30 minutes earlier than we requested.  Today he didn’t show until 0800. (Last year our faithful cabbie was not late once, ask Ken)
Turns out Yusuf has been turning up and waiting outside the hotel (where we can’t see him) until called by us. Would have been nice to know in advance but its sorted at last. Only took us a week.  Worth keeping in mind for any future trips.
The journey into work takes us on a new route this time. Has to be said it is much more scenic, taking in the quite picturesque Powai Lake and the  Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.
More treats for lunch including Jalebi.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPaufaHFdBQ
It’s like deep fried batter laces, coated in sugar syrup. I may have found an Indian food that Kev likes.
We head off from work for some shopping today by way of auto rickshaw. For the first time we try these mad contraptions out. Actually, they weren’t as bad as I had imagined. Although you see vehicles of all sizes whizzing past you, they are agile enough to slow down, get out the way quick enough. (well they were on this occasion)
I quite literally went nuts on spices and sweets but they weren’t all for me. There’s something for everyone in this little bundle this year. Amongst the pick of my delights are Mango and chilli pickles, soan papdy, Hulwa, Masala munch snacks, (like curry flavour Nik naks) Kulfi and Gulab Jamin.
I also pick up my obligatory book and DVD. The book about the spiritual philosophy of this man http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sai_Baba_of_Shirdi
and a film starring Aamir Khan (not the boxer), as recommended by Yogesh.
3 Idiots http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3_Idiots
We leave the shopping mall and head back to the hotel, into the most chaotic gridlock yet experienced. Quite literally the traffic was at a stand still at a crossroad junction, where everyone was doing as they pleased. Motorbikes and bikes interwined between the oncoming and crossing traffic, cars and auto rickshaws edged forwards slowly.  The traffic police backed off.
An hour and 15 minutes later we had covered the 15 or so miles and arrived back at the hotel.
A quick change followed by a visit to the Chinese restaurant for some food.
An assortment of dim sum followed by Szechuan beef. Nice.
Then up to have a web chat with K and the girls.
Bed around 0020

Wednesday 24th Nov
Today we were visited at Yantra Park by Challa Nag. Challa manages a number of SKY portfolios, which includes the guys in our Offshore team.
All of Challa’s other teams are based (as is he) in Hyderabad.
So, for him to be taking the time to fly to Mumbai to co-incide with my visit is quite an honour.
This is his first visit to Mumbai since taking over in the role, and so it is also the first opportunity he has had to meet Yogesh, Madaswamy and Raman. So, all in all a good opportunity for me, for Challa and for the guys too.
Unfortunately, Challa’s flight is delayed (something I’ve become used to since arriving, and especially since my weekend away) so he arrives at Yantra Park, just in time for lunch.
This is fine, and we chat over chapatis, daahl and lassi.
Before leaving us for the day, Challa presented Stu and I with a very beautiful book about the country. 100 things to see in India. I think I have managed two or three..so it looks like I’ll have to come back..Thanks guys.
Just an hour through the traffic to the hotel and no crazy sights tonight. Well, in context.
Probably everything about the journey was crazy, but when you’re onto day 8 of travelling through it, I may well have just adapted.
An early night again.  A quick catch up before bed, Stu and I recap the last few days.
I retire to bed and try to watch “3 Idiots” but my laptop wont play DVD’s. Schoolboy error on my part. So, it’s just the 1 idiot, that gets to sleep at 2230.

The next (and final) part coming soon.